The Prince George Cougars Hockey Club made nine selections in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft Thursday in Red Deer, Alberta. Prince George selected four forwards, four defensemen and one goalie in the first six rounds of the draft.
It was a busy draft for the Cougars scouting staff, as they had two draft selections in each of the first three rounds. The Cougars selected a forward and a goalie in the first round, choosing Craig Armstrong ninth overall from the Airdrie Xtreme in the Alberta Major Midget Hockey League. They nabbed netminder Tyler Brennan from the Rink Hockey Academy Nationals in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) with the 21st pick.
“They were our top two players we targeted at their positions, so as a scouting staff we’re thrilled to get both of them in the first round,” said Director of Scouting Bob Simmonds.
Armstrong led the Xtreme in scoring in both the regular season and in the playoffs. Armstrong amassed 23 goals and 54 points in 34 regular season games and followed that up with 14 goals and 24 points in 13 playoff games to lead the Xtreme to the 2018 AMBHL championship.
Brennan was the top-rated goaltending prospect in the draft and led the Bantam Prep Division in the CSSHL in both goals-against average (1.53) and save percentage (.947); he also led the Bantam Prep Division in shutouts (5).
Recent First Round Selections:
- 2017- Forward, Tyson Phare (18th)
- 2016- Goaltender, Taylor Gauthier (9th)
- 2015- Forward, Jackson Leppard (8th)
In the second round, the Cougars selected Brennan’s teammate from the Rink Hockey Academy, defenseman Hudson Thornton with the 33rd overall selection. Thornton, who hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was the second-highest scoring defenseman on the Nationals’ with 29 points (13-16-29) in 30 regular season games. He added three more points in five playoff games.
11 spots later, the Cougars selected forward Blake Eastman 44th overall from the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (AMBHL). Eastman had 17 goals and another 17 assists in 32 regular season games and finished second in scoring on the Rangers roster. The 6’2 forward had another nine points (6-3-9) in five games at the Alberta Cup with Edmonton Yellow.
Recent Second Round Selections:
- 2016- Defenseman, Cole Beamin (32nd)
- 2012- Forward, Aaron Boyd (43rd)
With the 60th overall pick, the Cougars added another skilled forward in Ty Mueller from the Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA. Mueller, a teammate of Armstrong’s, had 20 goals and 37 points in 31 regular season games in the AMBHL. He had another 10 goals and 23 points in 10 playoff games, winning the AMBHL championship. Mueller also won the Alberta Cup with Armstrong, as Team Central captured the title. He finished with five goals and 10 points in five games.
Five spots later, the Cougars bolstered their blue-line depth with the addition of Ethan Samson from the Delta Hockey Academy Wild in the CSSHL. Samson, a Delta, BC native was the top scoring rear-guard for the Wild, posting five goals and 20 points in 30 regular season games.
Recent Third Round Selections:
- 2017- Forward, Stanley Cooley (62nd)
- 2016- Defenseman, Jack Michell (54th)
The Cougars next pick was in the fifth round, 90th overall, and they snagged highly touted American defenseman Aidan Hreschuk from the LA Jr. Kings Bantam AAA. The Long Beach, California- native was the Jr. Kings top-scoring defenseman and finished fourth in scoring with 19 goals and 60 points in just 41 games.
Prince George finished off the fifth round by drafting forward Michael Svenson from the Rink Hockey Academy 104thoverall. Svenson, the third player from the Nationals selected by the Cougars, had 16 goals and 28 points in 30 games in the CSSHL. The Ile Des Chênes, Manitoba product was fourth in goal scoring and eighth in points on the Nationals roster.
The Cougars final pick of the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft was in the sixth round, when they grabbed defenseman Kent Anderson, 112th overall, from the Calgary CNHA Northstars Sabres Bantam AAA. Described as an intelligent, reliable 200-foot defenseman, Anderson tallied five goals and added nine assists in 35 games for the Sabres in the AMBHL. In five games at the Alberta Cup with Calgary North, Anderson tallied three points (1-2-3).
Recent Sixth Round Selections:
- 2017- Defenseman, Brody Gagnon (113th)
- 2017- Defenseman, Gabe Shipley (128th)
- 2015- Forward, Reid Perepeluk (113th)
The Cougars closed out the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft by trading their 2018 9th round selection (178th) to the Saskatoon Blades, in exchange for their ninth round pick in 2019.